Zelda, by Kelly Burke

Tuesday, 31 August, 2010

Fitzgerald’s Muse

London Fringe.  Leicester Square Theatre, 19th – 31st August, 19:00 (1.00)

The original Zelda

Zelda (Kelly Burke) is already deep in concentration when the audience enter the space.  She sits at a table in a simple and flattering blue chiffon dress surrounded by books, paintings, papers and shoes that are collected in untidy piles on the floor.  She is deeply absorbed in writing something, and it is so interesting to watch that it takes up the next ten minutes until the whole audience is seated easily.  When she speaks, we realize she is doing so from a mental hospital.  It is from this point that Zelda’s story unfolds through soliloquies delivered in ‘the present’ and frequent trips into the past via vivid reveries and excerpts from letters.  The story is that of the creative, outlandish and ultimately unhinged Zelda Sayre and her passionate, tumultuous relationship with the famous American novelist, F Scott Fitzgerald.  We see not only the couple’s glamorous lifestyle but also the struggle of a woman desperate to express herself from the creative shadow of her husband.  It features enough highs, lows and witty anecdotes from the 1920s American party scene to ensure that this one woman show is entertaining as well as touching.

Kelly Burke’s Zelda is immediately likeable with her engaging smile and open, conversational manner.  As the show progresses through it’s thrilling structure of rapidly changing settings, events and moods, she is really able to strut her stuff, giving a performance in which physicality and emotions turn on a sixpence.  The detailed characterization, physical skill and utter commitment of this actress are a pleasure to watch.  With no set changes to help to differentiate between past and present, the clarity of the piece is an achievement for both Writer/Actor Kelly Burke and Director Robert F Gross.

The scene is set simply effectively by the planning of Art Designer Kate Williams and Lighting Designer Sean Salinas and execution of Stage Manager and Lighting Operator Clare Woodruff.  The tone is perfect for a play that aims to showcase a well written story through a skillful performance where the actor’s relationship to the audience is paramount.

Zelda is a really excellent one woman show.  It achieves everything in exactly an hour with no wasted moments, and it feels like time well spent.  Well structured and impeccably executed, this is a thoroughly enjoyable show.

Cast Credits:  Kelly Burke – Zelda

Company Credits:  Writer – Kelly Burke, Director (Edinburgh Fringe 2006) – Robert F Gross, Stage Manager and Lighting Operator – Clare Woodruff, Lighting Designer – Sean Salinas, Art Designer – Kate Williams.

(c) Jennifer Skapeti

Sunday 22nd August

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